Not so easy rider
May 31, 2010 8:40 AM   Subscribe

How do i need to train?

I recently purchased a bike (it was an inexpensive hybrid) and have been going on semi-regular bike rides with my friend. We usually don't go that far, but yesterday we did 6 miles round trip, and I was wondering what I would need to do to be able to do 20 miles, because that is more or less the distance between where he lives and where I live. Yesterday, towards the end of the ride, I had plenty of energy but my quads were just like "Dude, we are not going to work anymore" (bastards). I felt great after though. what should I do to get to this kind of distance? Distance is the only thing too, I don't care about speed or time, I assume this trek would take a couple of hours.

What can i do to build up the necessary muscles for this?
posted by djduckie to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Please check your bike fit. Make sure your seat post is high enough. Hurting quads usually means your seat is too low.

Scroll down to the adjustment section.

You'll find that a properly adjusted bike seat can drastically increase your distance.
posted by just.good.enough at 8:46 AM on May 31, 2010

At this point the thing that will help the most is just riding a lot and trying to increase your distance a little bit each time. You'll be at 20 miles in no time.
posted by ghharr at 8:50 AM on May 31, 2010

Oh, and if you're out for more than an hour or so take along a snack, it might perk you up a little bit.
posted by ghharr at 8:51 AM on May 31, 2010

If you want to cover 20 miles and you don't care about speed, you don't have to do anything special to build up muscles at all.

First, do what just.good.enough said about seat adjustment. It drives me nuts to see people on non-cruisers having their saddle so low that they can sit on it and keep their feet flat on the ground at a red light. It not only makes riding harder, it can give you tendonitis and other stress injuries.

If you're mostly on the flat and your thigh muscles hurt, you should also check your resistance. You shouldn't be pedalling relatively slowly on the hardest gears; you should be pedalling with enough resistance to get somewhere without feeling as if you're barely creeping forward or bouncing out of your seat. Aim for a cadence of 80-100 revolutions a minute. A bike computer will help you with this.

What front and rear settings are you using? I find that what suits me on most flat surfaces is keeping in the middle ring (2 on my left shifter) and something between the third and fifth rear gears on my 21 speed mountain bike. (I always down-shift to less resistance at traffic lights so I can start with relatively low resistance, then increase it after I get started). I use the the largest ring when I am going down some kind of incline and want to push my speed. I use the smallest ring when I'm desperately pedaling up something steep and the middle ring isn't working for me any more. YMMV, obviously, so experiment to see what feels good to you. This guide is useful.
posted by maudlin at 8:58 AM on May 31, 2010

I agree with ajusting your seat height - it's generally a good idea to have the seat high enough so that you can only just touch the ground with your toes on either side, but that alone wont add on that extra 14 miles.

Cycling regularly would be my best help. I've found that one cycle every other day is best so that your body has time to rest but is made to build up more muscle for the demand of the constant cycling. If you don't have that kind of time, then I would suggest a cycle ride at least twice a week.

If it's purely for the distance and not the speed, I would suggest cycling 6 miles regularly and then slowly increasing the distance. Also, it's amazing how much energy you recover from a quick 5-10 minute break halfway through a cycle.
posted by sockpim at 9:22 AM on May 31, 2010

Speaking as an experienced, long-distance cyclist, who has toured multiple countries and continents, my main advice would be to make sure there's ice cream at both the start, and end of the journey. Most importantly, the end.

Other than that, don't worry about the mileage - don't psyche yourself out over the number, or believe it's some sort of ceiling that has to be broken through.

Do you currently live a sedentary lifestyle? 20 miles isn't too too much. What may help are very small, simple changes in your life, to help you gain strength in those little tiny muscles used for balance and support. Take the stairs, rather than the elevator/escalator. Walk everywhere possible. Stand up if you work sitting down.

It sounds like small change, but even being this self-professed, experienced, long-distance cyclist, I've found earlier this year that 20 miles was hard enough to do, without pain, until I started going to physical therapy to strengthen those little tiny muscles, to make things comfortable again.

But really, ice cream. Some sort of reward at the end. Pizza. Beer (make sure to drink enough water, though). Make rewards a part of physical training. Maybe also take lots of rest? Camera picture snapping can help you solve the problem of, "What to do when you're not doing anything"
posted by alex_skazat at 9:45 AM on May 31, 2010

Lots of good advice above. Ride every other day if you can. Don't worry about speed. Stay in a lower gear than you think you should be in to keep your cadence up and resistance down. If you're breathing hard or hurting, take a break and slow down even more.

Give it six weeks and you'll be amazed at your progress.
posted by Opposite George at 10:03 AM on May 31, 2010

Nthing the others who say that 20 miles is not that far. A bicycle is a wondrous device, in that it's very efficient at getting you to go long distances. A bike ride, really, is only as hard as you want to make it.

My main recommendations would be: a. keep riding, b. ensure your bike is working properly (e.g., do you pump up your tires regularly?), and c. make sure you're riding in as efficient a manner as possible, with the bike set up to fit you as well as possible.

Most important: pedal smoothly, with a cadence of about 80-90 rpm, and keep the upper body still. I see lots of people who bounce their torso or their whole body back and forth, as if that's going to get them up the hill. Your forward motion is coming from your legs, so think of them as pistons, and also think of the rest of your body as what they're getting leverage against. Don't "death grip" the bars.

Also, what kind of pedals do you have? Pedals that you can "clip" into are also fantastic at letting you use the full up-and-down pedal stroke, as opposed to just pushing down. And, don't forget to eat breakfast before you leave, and to have a bottle of water and maybe a banana for the ride.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:07 AM on May 31, 2010

If you want to ride 20 miles, keep riding your bike. That is all.
posted by axismundi at 12:57 PM on May 31, 2010

I'm not an experienced rider either, and honestly pretty out of shape, but today we did 18 miles, with a lot of hills and wind. I'm tired, but nothing hurts. So, after you've made sure your fit is right, the comments about just keeping at it are all spot on. We're adding a mile or so to the loop every time, and by the end of the summer I'm hoping to be at thirty miles. Just keep at it and 20 miles should be pretty easy.
posted by korej at 1:26 PM on May 31, 2010

Nthing that 20 miles isn’t that far, but you are new to this so that may be the challenge.

Have you ever heard of the couch to 5K training regimen for runners? It starts out walking a mile (week 1), then alternating with a bit of running (week 2), adding another mile (later weeks) ….slowly over a few weeks. Use the same concept but build up a bit faster. Because this is new to you: 6 miles this weekend, 10 miles next weekend, 15 the next weekend, and 20 the next (I think you should be able to even skip from 10 to 20, but YMMV).

I primarily only bike 1 day/week, and adding 10 to 20 miles each week is doable and won’t be that bad.

To make this work, in addition to some of the suggestions above: 1) check out some local cycling clubs (google Austin bike club etc) – most clubs have rides for beginners (20 or 30 miles), but they take it slow and it may be a fun way to meet other cyclists and continue to increase your distances: 2) try to explore and ride to other new places. I think this web site has cue sheets for your location. Cue sheets are great because they will tell you where to start and usually pick a route that has minimal traffic/giant hills, whatever; and 3) Aim for longer rides (believe me the limit is in your head). So perhaps try an organized ride that is 75 miles (after you build up more miles of course), and the following year try a century.

Ride on and have fun.
posted by Wolfster at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2010

Aim for longer rides (believe me the limit is in your head).

I think this is a big part of it. I regularly ride on 2 different bike paths - one is 10 miles, and the other is 15. For both rides, as I start coming into the final stretch before I'm done, I start to get tired and when I stop I am just beat - can't push even one more rotation of the pedals. But obviously, on the 10-mile path I know I can go farther, because I just did the 15-mile path last week. It's all in the head.
posted by CathyG at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2010

I want to reiterate that you should probably shift into an easier gear if your quads are hurting. You'll be breathing a bit harder if you spin faster, but your muscles won't be pushing as hard.

Also as others have noted, you really can push just as hard or as little as you want. Barring extreme hills or temperatures, you shouldn't have to break a sweat if you don't want to. (I usually want to. :) ) Your muscles will quickly adapt to almost anything.

Finally, a comment that is finally not a repeat! 20 minutes in about two hours is most likely doable. That's about my average if I'm taking it easy, and there's lots of traffic lights. You're not interested in speed, but you might be able to eventually cut that down to 1.5 hours or so depending on variables.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:09 AM on June 1, 2010

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